A DAY IN THE LIFE….A few days ago, McClatchy’s Hannah Allam and Laith Hammoudi visited Muqtada al-Sadr’s headquarters for western Baghdad and sat down for a chat with the head of the office. Birds were singing, favors were being doled out, and things were calm:

But calm is always fleeting in Baghdad. At midday, about 50 gunmen stormed the courtyard and ordered everyone inside to stay put and to stay silent.

Sadr’s Mahdi Army militiamen responded immediately, drawing automatic rifles and pistols from under their winter coats and gathering in a cluster to face the unidentified gunmen. The assailants closed ranks, brandishing shiny revolvers and battered machine guns.

The groups walked toward each other as if in a high-noon duel. A voice from the crowd called for blessings in the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Sadr’s soldiers began to shout age-old prayers for the prophet and his descendants, then added the Sadr camp’s innovation: “Bring salvation soon, and damn their enemies!”

The reporters wisely decided to cut their interview short and fled the Kadhemiya neighborhood office, but checked back later to see how things had turned out:

In a phone call later that night, he dismissed the showdown as “a tribal matter” and emphasized that no one was injured. Kadhemiya was still safe.

“It was a private matter,” he said, and offered no further explanation.

I imagine this actually counts as a good day in western Baghdad these days.

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